Certain components which are used in one of the most consumed foods of the world (especially by children) can cause cancer. This has been revealed by different studies over recent years. The consumption of hot dogs and especially the nitrite which they contain can post certain health risks, especially for young ones.
Facts about the consumption of hot dogs and certain diseases
One of the studies related the consumption of hot dogs and other similar foods with leukemia patients. They analyzed the diets of children from birth to 10 years old. Those that ate more than 12 hot dogs per month were nine times more likely to suffer from this blood disease. And take note, because the risk was also present in the case of mothers who consumed at least 12 hot dogs per month before giving birth or during gestation.
On the other hand, a study done in the city of Denver, Colorado (United States), revealed that children whose mothers had eaten hot dogs at least once a week during pregnancy had double the risk of developing brain tumors, almost equal to those that consume this food regularly.
Why can hot dogs cause cancer?
One of the main problems with this food, which is often requested by children, is that it contains nitrites as preservatives, with the goal of combating botulism. When hot dogs are cooked, these nitrites combine with other natural components of the meat and form carcinogenic compounds called N-nitroso.
It is also believed that the nitrites combine in the stomach and form the same substances, linking them with cancer of the bladder, brain, stomach, kidneys, esophagus and oral cavity. All “cured” meats contain nitrites, not just hot dogs. The same is true with hamburger and bacon.
Likewise not all hot dogs that we find in the market contain nitrites. You can tell which ones are full of this substance by the color of the food. If they are a bright red color (what we think of the color of fresh meat), then it is because they have used a lot of preservatives.
Hot dogs which are free of nitrites are those that have a light brown color or skin. However, do not be deceived, since some food manufacturers know how to combine other ingredients to make it appear as though their hot dogs do not have so many nitrites.
As a first step it is important to eat homemade hot dogs rather than the industrialized ones, such as the ones you can find on farms, at fairs and in some butcher shops. The industrialized ones are those found in markets and that come in sealed packages.
Further, it is advised to not eat more than 12 hot dogs a month, regardless of where you buy them. You can request that your local market sell a kind that is free of nitrites and find out what kind are served for lunch at your children’s school.
It is true that some vegetables also have nitrites (most of all those that are green color such as lettuce, celery and spinach), however, the consumption of these vegetables reduces the risk of cancer. This is possibly due to the fact that they do not form N-nitrosos even when boiled. Nitrites from vegetables are beneficial because they contain vitamins C and D which actually inhibit the production of N-nitrosos. Therefore they are not dangerous to our health, but just the opposite.
How are hot dogs made?
If you are still curious about this food or if the studies done on the nitrites has not yet completely convinced you, perhaps it would be good to know how hot dogs are made. Afterward you can choose to eat them or not.
This is one of the most consumed foods in all the world and at the same time one of the most ancient, and they have secrets which are worth the effort to reveal. We are referring to, of course, the industrial ones which are usually purchased in the markets and whose origins are so “risky.”
Doctors, nutritionists, scientists and investigators have all analyzed each one of the components that make up hot dogs, which in other countries are known as salchichas, sausages, panchos, frankfurters or Viennese. There are about 35 different types but we are referring to the classic “Vienna sausages.” Each one has its own characteristic aroma, texture, taste and above all, ingredients.
The ingredients and techniques that the majority of the brands, among the industrialized hot dogs, share are:
Mechanically separated meat
The meat in hot dogs is poultry and comes from different kinds of birds, especially chickens and turkeys. The birds are plucked and placed in a mechanical system that separates the bones from the meat. This can also be done with cows and pigs, but it is more difficult. In a microscopic analysis of the meat used in hot dogs, we can observe a variety of tissues and crushed bones, as well as nerves, cartilage, blood vessels, skin, etc.
Flavoring and water
The second main ingredient in hot dogs is water. Food regulations stipulate that at least 10% of each unit must be water. However, some brands have been found to contain up to 50%. We may think this is good for our health, however, the problem is not the water itself, but what it is mixed with. Artificial flavors are diluted in water and depend on the regulations of each particular country. These are chemical agents, essences or flavoring to make them spicier or add more flavor.
Salt and corn syrup
These two ingredients are present in large quantities in all fast food. In the case of corn syrup it is used to add consistency, texture and a sweetness similar to homemade or traditional hot dogs. On the other hand, salt (sodium chloride) is required for the manufacture, but often in excessive quantities. For example, a hot dog is almost 500 mg of salt, i.e. 20% of the recommended daily allowance.
Sodium phosphates and potassium lactates
Sodium phosphate is a mixture of sodium salts and phosphoric acid and functions as an additive. In this specific case it interacts with the proteins (making them “useless”), to increase the juiciness and reduce water loss. Regarding the potassium lactate, it is a type of salt used as an acidity regulator and antioxidant. It is a meat preservative because it has antimicrobial properties (kills harmful bacteria).